Wednesday, 22 November 2017

More action on housing disrepair

Events in the news have focussed attention on the sometimes indifferent attitudes towards keeping rented properties in healthy and proper condition. We are working with a number of solicitors who are taking action on behalf of tenants against their landlords, specifically housing associations or local authorities themselves, in instances where properties fall short of the required standard.

The object is to remedy faults, and secure compensation where appropriate, for people who would previously only have had a small voice against big organisations.
ARAG has been helping grow this sector and it fi ts neatly with our aim to continually diversify in the aft er the event market.
Housing disrepair claims typically follow a pattern and because of this we are able to offer a fixed premium, deferred until the end of the case, with standard cover of typically £10,000 for all disbursements and adverse costs.

It is excellent news both for residents of dilapidated, unrepaired or damp dwellings and for those solicitors who have become specialised in this area. As firms become unsettled by negative developments that affect the flow of business in the ATE market, such claims will surely enjoy further interest.

ARAG’s Housing Disrepair cover can be used for either fast or multi-track claims.

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Employment dispute? Be prepared for a wait

Roughly 50% of employment disputes are settled between the parties by ACAS early conciliation. However, where settlement cannot be reached, disputes can be escalated to a tribunal hearing.

We are hearing that most area Employment Tribunals are now booking over a year ahead.  
For example, Nottingham is now booking Hearings for Dec 2018 and Croydon is late January 2019.

The National Tribunal User Group met back in June, prior to the UNISON judgment, which resulted in the abolition of employment tribunal (ET) fees.

At that time 67% of cases were disposed of within 6 months of receipt against a target of 75% in England and Wales. The meeting notes refer to judges and non-legal members of tribunal panels retiring and not being replaced and the closure, relocation and merger of court centres.

This stress-inducing situation is most unwelcome and is expected to deteriorate significantly due to an anticipated surge of claims following the abolition of ET fees.

Our policyholders should be assured that the lawyers we appoint will make every endeavour to resolve claims within a reasonable time frame but where cases cannot be settled, their patience could be tested, in view of the delays that we are hearing about.   

The devil in the detail

It is 9 years since Lord Justice Jackson first got the call from the Master of the Rolls to begin his Review of Civil Litigation Costs which made recommendations largely brought into law by the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO).

While debates about the post-LASPO regime persist, few would question Jackson’s tenacity. This summer, his latest “supplemental” review, caps months of speculation on the prospect of fixed recoverable costs being extended to cover a much wider range of cases. The implications for the legal profession and for public access to the justice system will still be significant, but his latest recommendations represent a significant step back from earlier proposals.

In January 2016, Jackson urged ministers to fix costs for claims up to £250,000 but his latest review proposes only to fix costs for all claims up to £25,000. As always, the devil will be in the detail, but it is encouraging that Lord Jackson has acknowledged the complexity of clinical negligence cases, so that people who have been harmed by the public health system are not subsequently let down by the justice system.

His review recommends that a bespoke process is established for clinical negligence cases that fall beneath the £25,000 threshold and proposes that a joint Department of Health and Civil Justice Council working group be set up to gather views from both claimant and defendant solicitors. The outcome will be vital to the fairness of any fixed costs regime and to avoid tipping the scales in favour of defendants (most often NHS Resolution) who have already proved willing to play the system to avoid meeting the liabilities presented to them in court. Lord Jackson hasn’t entirely abandoned his aspiration to see fixed costs in much higher value cases, however.

His latest report also sets out plans for a pilot that would provide an optional, streamlined procedure for business and property cases up to £250,000, with fixed costs up to £80,000. Again, how this is implemented will determine both how fair and how successful any further expansion of the fixed costs regime may be, not least in the resources courts will have to deliver swift er and more cost-effective justice.

Fixed recoverable costs are, without doubt, here to stay and likely to be extended. They can offer benefits to all parties in streamlining and speeding up access to justice, but they could also reduce it, so any expansion must be carefully monitored.

Monday, 20 November 2017

Our journey to ICS Service Mark accreditation

ARAG ICS member ARAG has always differentiated itself from its competitors on quality of service, not just since we launched here in the UK a decade ago, but in Düsseldorf more than 70 years before that. However, there comes a time when all the internal measures and industry awards are not enough and we need to set a more ambitious goal; not just to be the best in our industry, but to be among the best in any industry. That’s why we have just embarked on our path towards Service Mark accreditation with the Institute of Customer Service (ICS).
There are any number of badges and accreditations a company can print on its letterhead or display in reception to suggest service excellence, but for ARAG this is more about the journey than the destination. In fact, we have chosen the ICS because it offers much more than a box-ticking exercise and will really challenge our existing systems and approach.

During this journey we will re-examine our strategic and operational approach to the customer experience. All aspects from measurement, recruitment, learning and development, digital systems and our business processes will come under scrutiny. We will also consider how we can better engage our staff and customers to work more effectively together towards common goal of access to justice.

The work will start in our before-the-event claims department with the aim of achieving Service Mark accreditation by the end of 2019. However, we won’t stop there; the programme will then expand to encompass all our business interactions with all customer types, whether a policyholder, broker, solicitor or anyone else. Our ambition is to have our whole operation Service Mark accredited during 2021.

Friday, 17 November 2017

Getting Data Privacy Right

“Data protection… didn’t we just do that?”

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg was still in high school, two Stanford PhD students were in the process of founding Google and none of us had even heard of WiFi, let alone cloud computing, when the UK passed it’s most recent Data Protection Act.

So, it’s fair to say the legislation could do with a tune-up. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will supersede our 1998 Act and similar legislation in every other EU member state, and has been built to unify legislation and strengthen data protection for individuals throughout the EU.

What’s new?
There are new rights for data subjects; new responsibilities for businesses; a new principle: accountability; and much tougher penalties including compensation for data subjects and fines of up to €20 million (more for the very largest companies).

What do brokers need to know?
Far too much to cover here, but BIBA has produced extensive guidance, available online.

What about law firms?
Similarly, solicitors have a lot to be aware of, but the Law Society has created some excellent resources for the profession.

But, but… Brexit?
GDPR will be enforced in the UK regardless of Brexit. It is also expected that its requirements will continue here, whatever the terms of any Brexit deal.

How long have we got?
About 6 months. GDPR compliance must be achieved by May 25, 2018. That may still seem a way off , but we all know how long systems work can take.